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Gleaners semi with green vegetables on the side.

STATEWIDE — It takes more than feeding the hungry to end hunger, and that’s the long-term goal for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.

Gleaners President & CEO Fred Glass was one of five food bank leaders to talk about hunger at the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summit in Washington D.C. Tuesday. The summit is a the first follow up event to the White House’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health held last month.

“I think we may be at a tipping point, and we may actually get some [financial] investments across the board, and I think Gleaners has a huge role to play in that,” says Glass.

The core of the summit and conference on hunger is discussing different ways to address world hunger and how it affects the health of everyone, including Hoosiers. Glass estimates 80-percent of illnesses that end people’s lives are based in hunger. Food bank leaders like Glass are addressing the issue with the theme of “food is medicine.”

“We’re increasing providing healthier and healthier foods,” Glass continues, “more produce, more protein, more diary to a population that often times has a hard time accessing quality food.”

Glass describes the biggest issues regarding hunger as a “double whammy,” at least here in Indiana. Gleaners has seen increased demand – twice as much as before the pandemic, says Glass. Lines are longer, demand is higher, and Gleaners is busy with more and more meals delivered to more and more families.

“The second part of the whammy is food is more expensive for most of us just like you and your listeners. Most of our food is not donated, contrary to what a lot of people might think,” says Glass.

He says Gleaners has to actually go out and buy much of its food, which means employing more people to source more foods from more places. But that comes at a cost, both figuratively and literally. Inflation has affected Gleaners as well, with food costing more money, meaning lighter wallets for Gleaners.

However, Glass is optimistic, “it’s a scary time but that’s what we do. Our commitment is to find and deliver that food to the people who need it.”

Children are typically the ones who need food the most. Glass says traditionally, most people assuming children experience hunger at greater levels during the summer months, when school’s out and those school lunches provided through federal programs are no longer there. But Glass says if you dig deeper, the most dangerous time, at least for now, is the winter. Parents and families have to try and balance the financial burden of keeping their kids fed and the house warm.

But once again, it’s a problem that Gleaners is attempting to solve. With investments in equipment and manpower, Glass says he’s hopeful that Tuesday’s summit and the White House conference can produce more partnerships and food resources. Those are just a few of the small steps towards the big picture, and that picture is of a world where hunger isn’t a problem.